Five Essential Elements in Include in a Rental Lease Agreement


Every state differs when it comes to rental lease agreements, but there are some common elements among all of them that are essential to have in writing before you hand over the keys to your property. Make sure that you include all the pertinent information in a rental lease agreement up front so that both the tenant and the landlord are clear on expectations, due dates, and money issues. Check with your own state for more specific information that may need to be included in lease agreements.

Most legal rental agreements will require the following five essential pieces of information regardless of state or county. These are the basic details that will be included in every single rental lease agreement, everything else is contingent on the state laws and how each landlord handles certain issues as follows:

  1. The legal names of the landlord and the tenant(s)
  2. The legal address of the rental property or rental unit (and sometimes an actual description of the property – Florida law requires this)
  3. The amount of the rent and date due, to whom the rent is to be paid, and where the rent is to be paid
  4. Length and expiration of the lease (this will vary depending on if it’s a month-to-month lease, a long-term lease, or an expired lease that has not been renewed yet)
  5. Security deposit amount and details (amounts and details will vary by state and by landlord)

These top five legal elements are required in most states, including the top eight rental property states, which include California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. These eight states statistically have a larger percentage of rental properties than any other states in the country, thus they have more renters signing contracts. Each state will have some differences in their legal documents, but the top five requirements will remain the same from state to state.

Some states such as California and Georgia also require that a rental agreement include whether pets are allowed, the specific number of people allowed to live in a rental unit, who is responsible for paying utilities, and who is responsible for taking care of the yard. Rights of entry are also important to know in some states. Florida and Oklahoma include rights of entry in their lease agreements, whereas California does not. A right of entry is the right of one person (the landlord) to enter the property of another person (the tenant) and must be specified if required by law. It is important to know what your rights are as a tenant and a landlord so there are no surprises upon entry of the house or unit.

It is also important to know whether your state will accept oral rental agreements as well as written ones. Some states such as Vermont and North Carolina will accept oral lease agreements, which can be as binding as written agreements in a court of law. However, it is always better to put any contract in a written form so that it is more easily enforced, and the terms are specifically written out and signed off on by both parties.

Some states such as Washington even include in their rental agreements that the landlord must legally provide a copy of the rental agreement to each tenant that signs it.  Other states such as Tennessee specify in their lease agreements what their grounds for eviction are (nonpayment of rent is the largest reason for tenant evictions in Tennessee). Know what the property owner or manager wants to include specifically in their tenant lease agreement beyond the basic five elements before asking your tenants to sign it. Some property owners want to iterate very specific terms when it comes to their property and the land it sits on.

Sometimes there are advantages to using technology when it comes to real estate dealings, especially written lease agreements. To utilize technology to its fullest, Landlord Station is now offering online document signing that allows you to send and sign lease agreements that are secure and legally binding. Landlord Station has partnered with Adobe EchoSign so that you can make online contractual agreements much easier to create, share, revise, and archive. This makes lease agreement signings much easier and more convenient for your tenants; no more waiting for the property management office to open up during business hours. Documents can be sent over email and legally signed through this portal, saving you money on postage and time.

Reputable property management websites such as Landlord Station make it easy for you to find the latest information on real estate issues. Read the blog to find out more about topics such as the latest tenant laws by state, proper tenant screening, how to manage investment properties, and various other topics of interest to the property owner and manager.

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